5 common misconceptions about MMA fighters

Three-time middleweight world champion and Vice President of ONE FC Rich Franklin talks about the five common misconceptions about MMA fighters

When I am introduced to someone as a professional fighter, I love seeing them mentally rework the perceived notion they had of a mixed martial artist. Simply, I don’t fall into the category of what most people would expect when they meet a fighter. Actually, just take the athletes on the ONE Fighting Championship (ONE FC) roster for example – many would shatter misconceptions people generally have about fighters.

Here are the five common misconceptions people have about MMA fighters:

1) MMA fighters are dumb

Why would someone choose to fight for a living if they could do something a bit more intellectually stimulating? I earned a Bachelor degree in Mathematics and a Master’s in Education, taught high school for four years, then left my career to accomplish a dream of becoming a world champion.

In the ONE FC arena, Jake Butler, ONE FC light heavyweight, graduated from Princeton University and secured a career as an investment broker on Wall Street. Geje Eustaquio recently completed his Master’s degree in Physical Education with a thesis on weight loss, although he took a temporary hiatus when he was training for his title match. Shinya Aoki, the ONE FC lightweight world champ, graduated from Waseda University, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan.

2) MMA fighters are angry

After his fight at ONE FC: WAR OF NATIONS, Malaysian fighter Saiful Merican donated his prize purse to his Cambodian opponent. His opponent’s family had recently lost their home in a fire and Saiful donated his fight purse to the family to cover the repair expenses from the fire. Most impressively, he vowed to do so quietly to avoid any public exposure of the matter. A competition in this industry involves the warrior spirit of pursuing excellence more so than anger to defeat an opponent.

3) MMA fighters are trouble makers

It is often thought that fighters came from troubled homes and the cycle will just continue. However, unaware to some, many of the athletes on the ONE FC roster are involved with community outreach programmes. Evolve MMA in Singapore, for example, works with The Boys’ Town Home along with many other charities.

The Boys’ Town Home is an organisation dedicated to working with troubled youth and orphans. Many of the athletes and coaches working at Evolve MMA serve as life mentors to these youths. So, while some of the fighters on the ONE FC roster may have come from troubled youth, it is their goal to show children it does not have to be their destiny.

4) MMA fighters drink, party, do drugs and get the girls

It takes a tremendous amount of sacrifice, dedication and hard work to even make it to the ONE FC roster. Athletes must be goal-oriented and willing to eliminate anything standing in the way of accomplishing that goal. Nutrition is key and sleep is paramount! These are aspects of a lifestyle not conducive to partying. While I am not able to speak for every fighter out there, I can say I have personally never had a sip of alcohol or done drugs in my life.

5) MMA fighters get into fights on the street

Let me appeal to your logic. Why fight on the street for free when you can get paid to do the same thing in the cage? (chuckles) Seriously though, it is very rare to see a professional mixed martial artist involved in any type of incident on the street. Those are not the type of fighters ONE FC would want to represent the organisation on a global scale.

Spend a week observing the mental and physical preparation a fighter has to go through for a ONE FC match. You will rethink every belief you have of an MMA fighter. After all, MMA is a chess match that requires both mental and physical discipline.

*This was first published in FHM Upgrade Singapore and republished with permission.